November is National Diabetes Month. Make it your time to take charge of your type 1 or type 2 diabetes for a longer, healthier life.
Preventive care for people with diabetes—and for the risk factors that cause related health problems—has improved significantly over the past 20 years, and people are living longer and better with the disease. But living longer can mean having other health problems longer, too. Good management over a lifetime is the key, starting with the day you’re told you have diabetes.
Get in the Know
There are three main types of diabetes: type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes (diabetes while pregnant). With type 1 diabetes, your body can’t make insulin, so you need to take insulin every day. Type 1 diabetes is less common than type 2 diabetes; about 5 percent of the people who have diabetes have type 1. Currently, no one knows how to prevent type 1 diabetes.
More than 29 million people in the United States have diabetes, but 1 out of 4 don’t know they have it. At least 1 out of 3 people will develop diabetes in their lifetime. Medical costs for people with diabetes are twice as high as for people without diabetes. And the risk of death for adults with diabetes is 50 percent higher than for adults without diabetes.
Most people with diabetes—9 out of 10—have type 2 diabetes. With type 2 diabetes, your body doesn’t use insulin well and is unable to keep blood sugar at normal levels. If you have any of these risk factors, ask your doctor if you should be tested for diabetes. The sooner you find out, the sooner you can start making healthy changes that will benefit you now and in the future.
Risk factors include being overweight, being 45 years or older, having a parent or sibling with type 2 diabetes, being physically active less than 3 times a week, ever having gestational diabetes or giving birth to a baby that weighed more than 9 pounds.
Race and ethnicity also affect your risk. African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, Pacific Islanders, and some Asian Americans are at particularly high risk for type 2 diabetes.
Healthy eating is an important—and delicious—part of managing diabetes.
Pay Attention to Prediabetes
More than a third of American adults—around 86 million—have prediabetes, and 9 out of 10 don’t know it. With prediabetes, blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough yet to be diagnosed as diabetes.
Prediabetes can put people at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Without lifestyle changes, 15 percent to 30 percent of people with prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes within 5 years. Take action now—by eating healthier and getting more physical activity—to help prevent prediabetes from becoming type 2 diabetes and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. The CDC-led National Diabetes Prevention Program can help people with prediabetes adopt the healthy lifestyle habits needed to prevent diabetes. Find a program in your community and get started today.
Living with diabetes is challenging, but it’s important to remember that making healthy choices can have a big effect on the course of the disease—and your quality of life.
You’ve Been Diagnosed with Diabetes. Now What?
Learning how to take care of your type 2 diabetes shouldn’t happen only when you’re diagnosed; it should be a lifelong focus. And as you get older, your treatment may need to change. Managing diabetes from the beginning can mean fewer health problems later on.
It’s a balancing act—food, activity, medicine, and blood sugar levels—but one you can master. Manage your diabetes throughout the day by:
Following a healthy eating plan, including eating more fruits and vegetables and less sugar and salt.
Getting physically active—10 to 20 minutes a day is better than only an hour once a week.
Taking diabetes medicine as prescribed by your doctor.
Testing your blood sugar regularly to understand and track how food, activity, and medicine affect your blood sugar levels.
People with type 1 or type 2 diabetes are at higher risk for serious health complications, including heart disease and stroke, blindness and eye problems, kidney disease, and amputations. People with diabetes are twice as likely to have heart disease or a stroke as people without diabetes, and at an earlier age. Diabetic retinopathy (damage to blood vessels in the retina), cataract (clouding of the lens), and glaucoma (increase in fluid pressure in the eye) can all result in vision loss. High blood sugar levels can damage the kidneys over time, long before you start to feel bad. Diabetes causes damage to blood vessels and nerves, particularly in the feet, and can lead to serious, hard-to-treat infections. Amputation may be necessary to keep the infection from spreading. But good blood sugar control can help you avoid or delay these serious health complications, and treating complications as soon as possible can help prevent them from getting worse.
Know Your ABCs
Work with your doctor to manage your diabetes ABCs, and keep a record of your numbers. Results will help determine if your treatment plan is working and you’re able to stay in your target range—for example, an A1C of 7 percent or less—or if adjustments need to be made. Staying on track will help lower your risk of additional health problems.
A—the A1C test, which measures average blood sugar over 2 to 3 months.
B—blood pressure, the force of blood flow inside blood vessels.
C—cholesterol, a group of blood fats that affect the risk of heart attack or stroke.
S—stop smoking or don’t start.